Prebiotics are nutrients that help the beneficial bacteria in your stomach and intestines grow and multiply.
These probiotics feed off the “bacteria food” in prebiotics, and a healthy gut bacteria population is linked to better digestive health, immune system function, weight loss, improvements in mood, and reduction in stress.
With probiotics being one of the biggest medical frontiers of the 21st century, you want a prebiotic supplement that will keep your healthy gut bacteria (plus any probiotics you take through a supplement) flourishing.
We’ve evaluated and ranked the ten best prebiotic supplements on the market right now.
1. Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Organic Fiber Prebiotic
Garden of Life has a very carefully crafted fiber prebiotic that uses five different sources of fiber to create an optimal environment for probiotic bacterial growth.
By consulting with a nationally renowned expert in the body’s microbiome, Garden of Life chose their ingredients to gain some extra benefits from the plants that provide the fiber: baoba, apple, orange, cranberry, and acacia.
These plant materials may help curtail hunger as well, making this a good choice if you are taking a probiotic supplement and are also trying to lose weight. With these extra benefits and strong sources of fiber, it’s our top choice.
2. Hyperbiotics Prebiotic
Hyperbiotics Prebiotic is a powder-based prebiotic supplement that contains fiber from acacia, Jerusalem artichoke, and green banana flour.
This provides a substrate and food source for beneficial bacteria in your stomach to multiply. The broad range of fibers and combination of starch from banana flour and fiber from plant materials make it suitable for a wide range of probiotic bacteria.
3. Dr. Tobias Gutmeister
Dr. Tobias offers a prebiotic formulation that’s decidedly different from anything else on the market. While other supplements use fiber and starch to encourage good bacteria to grow, Gutmeister uses a patented formulation that targets and kills “bad” bacteria which frees up nutrients for good bacteria to grow and multiply.
While this is an unconventional approach, there are clinical trials supporting its efficacy, which makes it an excellent choice. Because it’s not fiber-based, it also avoids the bloating and gas that can result from a high-fiber prebiotic
Prebiotin is a powder-based prebiotic that uses fiber from inulin, a plant material that’s rich in oligosaccharides. These long chains of sugar are a particularly effective source of food for probiotic bacteria.
The fiber content is lower than in some other supplements, but this should be offset by the oligosaccharide content, which works synergistically with the fiber.
5. Genesis Today Superfood Fiber
Genesis Today makes a comprehensive probiotic and prebiotic supplement that includes more sources of fiber than just about anything else on the market.
It also includes superfood extracts from fruits and vegetable extracts for extra antioxidant power. If you want a total solution for creating and maintaining a healthy gut biome, look no further than Genesis Today.
The actual probiotic content is fairly low in terms of colony forming units, but in terms of its prebiotic power, it’s pretty good.
6. Nutrivee Advanced Prebiotic
Nutrivee makes a prebiotic that uses the same bacteriophage ingredients that kill off “bad” bacteria to make room for the good ones as Dr. Tobias Gutmeister, though it gets edged out by a few minor details.
Fewer people use this supplement, and the quality of the capsule isn’t quite as good. Still, the dosage and active ingredient is exactly the same, so the greater quantity of capsules per bottle might make it a good alternative.
7. vH Probiotics and Prebiotics with Cranberry
vH makes a specially formulated supplement that’s tailored to women specifically. This supplement combines the probiotic power of bacillus and lactobacillus probiotic colony forming units as well as inulin for oligosaccharides.
It also includes 500 mg of cranberry powder, which the company claims boosts probiotic growth. However, the consequence of so many ingredients is that the overall prebiotic content is quite low, and there is no fiber in this supplement either.
8. BeLive Probiotic Fiber Gummies
BeLive Probiotic Fiber Gummies are a good choice if you don’t like the taste of other fiber powders, or hate mixing powders into a drink.
There are some downsides, though: each gummy has only 1.6 grams of fiber, and is flavored with sugar alcohols, which don’t always sit well with everyone. They do have a decent quantity of fructooligosaccharides to promote probiotic growth, though.
9. Regular Girl Prebiotic and Probiotic Blend
Regular Girl makes a female-specific blend of prebiotics and probiotics. The probiotic content is a high dosage (eight billion colony forming units), but it’s just one bacterial strain.
The prebiotic that Regular Girl uses is guar fiber, which provides a substrate and food for bacteria but doesn’t really distinguish itself in any particular way.
Benefiber is a fairly popular fiber supplement in its own right, but it also caters to the probiotic crowd by functioning as a prebiotic supplement.
It uses wheat dextrin as its fiber source, so it doesn’t have the advantage of the oligosaccharides that some other supplements have, nor does it boast any of the extra benefits of more carefully chosen plant fiber sources.
It’s okay if you just want more fiber, but most alternatives offer something better.
Prebiotic benefits and side effects
A prebiotic supplement provides the food and the substrate that probiotic bacteria need to take hold in your digestive system. Probiotics can digest substances that your body can’t, like fiber and long chains of sugars called oligosaccharides.
Taking probiotics for a healthier gut bacteria population is great, but it doesn’t do a whole lot of good if they can’t grow and multiply effectively. Because probiotics are such a popular topic of research, prebiotics have been the subject of a great number of scientific studies as well.
In terms of concrete uses, prebiotic can help you achieve improved gastrointestinal health, better mood regulation, decreased stress hormone levels, and increased weight loss.
Prebiotics with fiber can improve gastrointestinal health. One of the earliest avenues of research into the function of probiotic bacteria was in chronic conditions of the gastrointestinal tract like inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease.
It appears that fiber-based prebiotic supplements are helpful for treating these conditions, according to a scientific article published in 2014 by researchers at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London (1).
In a review of previous research, the authors conclude that taking supplemental fiber helps increase the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract in people with inflammatory bowel diseases, which in turn decreases inflammation and improves symptoms.
Prebiotics also tend to improve the function of the mucous layer that lines the stomach and intestines, protecting it from damage by substances that are in the digestive tract.
A prebiotic supplement with oligosaccharides can improve your immune function. Emerging research is demonstrating that your immune system and your digestive system are closely linked.
According to a study published in 2005 in the British Journal of Nutrition, consuming oligosaccharides, which are digestible by probiotic bacteria, increases production of a component of the immune system called natural killer cells (2). These are what seek out and destroy harmful pathogens inside your body.
The same properties appear to be associated with inulin, which explains why it’s in so many prebiotic supplements. The authors even hypothesize that the increased immune function could potentially decrease risk for colon cancer, and call for future research to examine that topic.
Prebiotics can help prevent weight gain. A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2007 by a team of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine examined the effects of a year-long prebiotic supplement routine in comparison to a placebo (3).
Nearly 100 adolescents were given either a prebiotic supplement or a placebo, and the medical researchers tracked their increase in body mass index over the course of the year. The results showed that the prebiotic supplement resulted in less of an increase in body mass index at the study’s conclusion, furthering the hypothesis that a healthy population of gut bacteria is important for fending off weight gain.
Interestingly, they also found that having high calcium levels appeared to be protective against weight gain, which indicates that there may be some interaction between probiotic bacteria levels and micronutrients like calcium, but the complexities of these kinds of relationships are far from being understood.
Prebiotics can lower your stress levels and increase attention to positive emotion. Beyond just the physiological, the benefits of a prebiotic supplement appear to extend into the psychological realm too.
A study published in the journal Psycho-Pharmacology examined the emotional and hormonal effects of a fiber-based prebiotic supplement on levels of the stress hormone cortisol and self-reported positive and negative emotions (4).
The researchers tested the prebiotic supplement in comparison to a placebo over the course of three weeks and found two remarkable results. First, the prebiotic supplement lowered levels of cortisol, which indicates lower levels of stress.
Second, the prebiotic resulted in decreased attention to negative emotions and increased attention to positive emotions, indicating that a prebiotic supplement could boost your mood and decrease stress.
From a medical standpoint, prebiotic supplements are very safe—their ingredients are not particularly biologically active.
However, one well-documented side effect seen in many studies is bloating and gas, which results from the rapid growth of probiotic bacteria in your stomach and the resultant increase in production of gas.
This side effect appears to be worse in people who do not have much fiber in their diet. The good news is that these side effects do decrease over time as your body acclimates to higher fiber intake.
You can also try gradually ramping up your dosage over time to acclimate to prebiotics without inducing these side effects.
Research on probiotics is in its early stage, so scientific studies are all over the board with their dosage of prebiotics. The best review on dosing guidelines so far comes from researchers at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom (5).
They recommend a minimum of four grams per day for prebiotics that use inulin or oligosaccharides, and a maximum of 20 grams per day. Doses beyond this level may create the gastrointestinal side effects that characterize some prebiotic supplements.
That being said, prebiotic supplements appear to follow a dose-response relationship: that is, more tends to be better.
A study by researchers at the University of Nebraska Lincoln compared a 2.5 gram, a 5 gram, and a 10 gram daily dosage level of a prebiotic supplement and found that the best results came from higher doses of the prebiotic supplement (6).
Prebiotic supplements have a remarkable range of benefits, thanks to the wide-reaching importance of your gut bacteria. A prebiotic supplement can help improve inflammatory bowel diseases, boost the functioning of your immune system, prevent weight gain, decrease your stress levels, and improve your mood.
These benefits are impressive, but all of these functions revolve around the ability of a prebiotic supplement to increase the levels of the good bacteria in your digestive tract.
The best strategy is to take a prebiotic supplement that includes both fiber and oligosaccharides or inulin, and aim for a dosage of at least four grams per day. If you get bloating or gas, you can try a lower dosage for a while as your body becomes acclimated to the increased levels of probiotic bacteria in your stomach and intestines.
From a dosage standpoint, it appears that a higher dose creates a stronger boost in good bacteria levels, so to the extent that you can tolerate doses of five or ten grams of prebiotic bacteria per day, you should strive for doses in that range.